For almost an entire week I’ve had interesting heated exchanges with a friend on Facebook. The subject being discussed is probably secondary, since the exchanges became rather nasty and personal. My friend felt as though I was being superior, self-righteous, condescending and hurtful by always insisting that I was right, while I thought that I was simply not agreeing with his insistence of his opinion and his point of view. The ad hominems and personal attacks increased as he brought up many of my past failures and sins over the past few decades, to stamp home the point that I’m just the exact same sinner that I was in the past which everyone in my church fellowship knew and who would all agree with him that I am this unbearable and insufferable sort of person.
Why am I sharing this? It is NOT to pick at my friend for picking me apart. He states that he is upset because the way I express myself in my Facebook comments are intended primarily to target him and to provoke him to anger. In his words, what I wrote was just to “piss him off” and to gather several other of my “sidekicks” to gang up on him.
Are my friends accusations true? To be honest, I did not think that it was. But then again I am also a cheeky sort of fellow and an agent provocateur who loves to push the boundaries of what I can say publicly while trying not to cross the line of being insulting or disrespectful.
For instance, my friend was getting angry at me and others who disagreed with him. So several commenters stated that he has anger issues, which made him even more angry. To him his anger was justified because he felt that I and a few others provoked him by being self-righteous and condescending in our combined responses in refuting his opinion. Of course, I didn’t agree with him, since I felt I was simply responding to him with reasoned arguments, which to him were intentionally provocative and even hurtful.
With regards to anger, I wrote that there are four types of people: those with anger issues, those without anger issues, those with anger issues and who acknowledge it, and finally those who angrily insist that they have no anger issues. He was particularly upset that I wrote this saying that I was targeting him, while I thought that I was being creative and funny in the context of all the back and forth exchanges, some of which were rather heated and unpleasant and which resulted in one person blocking another.
This simply went back and forth for almost the entire week with dozens and dozens of comments, something that I have not experienced or encountered before. Despite some degree of emotional tension and discomfort, it was actually kind of fun to dialogue back and forth for an extended period. Eventually though it became like two arrows passing each other across the dark sky with neither side being able to genuinely and empathetically listen to the other side. Perhaps we never did from the outset.
So why am I sharing this? Again, I hope it does not come across as me trying to pick at my friend. I want to take my share of the blame and responsibility since I love to push the envelope as far as I can, which is often perceived as excessive, which it indeed may be.
I’m sharing this because I wish to learn about how to graciously navigate strong differences of opinion without escalation, both in private exchanges and especially in public forums like Facebook.
I know that I often need to simply acquiesce and back away. But I’ve probably failed at this my entire life. I really am often simply unable to just back off. So several people have pointed out that I always need to have the last word and that I always need to win every argument. Clearly, I need to be told this again and again, until one day God indeed helps me to just let it go.
A way for me to deal with stuff is often to laugh it off and make light of it, as the way for me to not give in to anger. But then this inclination toward levity and laughter at such times perhaps irritates and annoys others even more, especially when they are already angry and upset.
I’ve been a trouble maker all my life. I need to learn how to be a peacemaker which is obviously much much harder. I obviously need to learn to promote healing and reconciliation, rather than causing tension, angst, frustration and emotional outbursts. A Dirty Harry or a Trump disposition is just not going to cut it.
After writing all this, I think I just needed to ventilate a little, get this off my chest and move on. It is also to ask your understanding, counsel, advice, wisdom and prayer to help me navigate through instances like this, where the situation often gets worse instead of better.
Do you find it as hard as I do to simply back off? Let it go? Promote peace? Decrease tension and conflict?